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Settlements are not an obstacle to peace?


Produced Lara Friedman, Americans for Peace Now

They Say:
Settlements are not an obstacle to peace. They take up only a tiny fraction, around 1 percent, of the entire West Bank.

We Say:

The "one percent argument" is a classic example of how supporters of the status-quo use a fraction of the truth to misrepresent the truth on the ground in the West Bank.

Yes, the actual built-up area of West Bank settlements takes up only a little more than one percent of the West Bank. But the settlements' built-up area is just the tip of the settlements iceberg. The impact of the settlements goes far beyond this one percent.

Consider that almost 10 percent of the West Bank is included in the "municipal area," or the jurisdictional borders of the settlements. These borders are so large that they allow settlements to expand many times over onto land that is completely off-limits to Palestinians.

In addition, consider that almost 34 percent of the West Bank has been placed under the jurisdiction of the settlements' "Regional Councils." That is, more than an additional one-third of the West Bank has been placed under the control of the settlers, off-limits to Palestinians.

Do the math and you will realize that more than 40 percent of the West Bank is under the direct control of settlers or settlements and off-limits to Palestinians, regardless of the fact that only a small portion of this land has been built on by settlers.

But the settlements iceberg is even bigger. Israel has taken hundreds of kilometers of the West Bank to build roads that serve the settlements, connecting them to each other and to Israel. They crisscross the entire West Bank, dividing Palestinian cities and towns from each other, and imposing various barriers to Palestinian movement and access. These roads don't only deny Palestinians contiguity, they also, occupy a significant amount of land that is off-limits to Palestinians.

The "separation barrier" that zigs and zags the Green Line into the West Bank demonstrates how meaningless it is to focus on the built-up area of settlements. The barrier de-facto annexes 9.5 percent of the West Bank to Israel, following a route that was manifestly guided not by security needs but to accommodate settlements and settlement expansion plans. This 9.5 percent is many times the built-up area of settlements. That underscores the fact that Israeli territorial ambitions across the 1967 lines are not limited to the built-up areas of settlements.

Many of the settlements were established with a concrete objective in mind: To block the creation of a future Palestinian state. And this is not just the case in the West Bank: since 1967, Israel has expropriated fully 35 percent of the land in East Jerusalem as "state land" and used it almost entirely for settlements. Such settlements (and new settlement construction going on today) have the explicit goal of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem - which, in effect, means preventing the two-state solution.

To sum up, construction inside West Bank settlements takes up only a small part of the West Bank, but settlements control almost half of the West Bank's territory. They are spread across the entire length and breadth of the West Bank, connected by dedicated infrastructure and bolstered throughout by the Israeli army. They have exclusive authority over almost half the land and form a network of control that makes normal Palestinian life and development virtually impossible throughout the approximately 90 percent of the West Bank on which settlements have not (yet) been physically built.

If settlements remain in the West Bank, a viable Palestinian state cannot be created. Without the creation of a Palestinian state, the state of Israel is at risk of becoming either a bi-national state and losing its Jewish character, or becoming an international pariah in which a Jewish minority rules over a disenfranchised Palestinian majority. Either scenario jeopardizes Israel's future.

Settlements are therefore not only a major obstacle to peace but also a threat to Israel's future.